Okay, here is my first review of 2019, which I will discuss while sharing with you what 2018 meant for me. Much like Barry Jenkins’ latest work, it turned out very similar to my own year of personal issues. In fact, movies took up the year and went on to influence other personal relationships of mine. It was an awry balance between happiness beside the mandatory events that brought my spirits down and seeing the two merge. This balance gets captured in If Beale Street Could Talk as it shows a young woman’s judgment tested.
Not that its depiction of the judgment hits all the marks though, as this still lacks the strength of the parents’ involvement in the core plot. They each develop too weak a redemptive arc while their nineteen-year-old daughter carries a new baby, and her twenty-two-year-old boyfriend goes behind bars. Mom and Dad’s impact would have turned stronger without the voiceover narration, which right now sounds straight from a novel.
The characters themselves don’t make the dialogue that much better though, as some say discomforting phrases like, “The White man has got to be the devil,” which could shut off a few viewers. It’s a consequence of Jenkins’ anti-marriage script that does not focus enough time between the main protagonist, Tish, and her relatives, something important for the story to take on its full intended purpose. Yet it ironically helps strengthen the bond between Tish and her other half, Alonzo, or as she only refers to him as, “Fonny,” a name that dates to their childhood.
The weak details, including some distractingly bad Italian accents, strangely enough help preserve the strong little details. For this movie, it is a record player Fonny turns on as relaxing sex music. These slow moments of high tension keep up thanks to the killer performances of the whole cast that help turn on painful feels that want to set off the happy thoughts. Thus, the incredibly average screenplay can be ignored.
In fact, the theme keeps up in such subtle queues from the very first frame to the last; Tish and Fonny start off wearing coordinated morning glory flower outfits, then the motif of colors keeps up until the impactful finale when those colors take on a gloomier aura. Of some bad emotions felt, Fonny projects vocally how his dark skin makes him hate living in America.
Therefore, Barry Jenkins properly decides to implement monochrome photographs of the past national pain. With the expert editing, we can forget the fun high-speed 1990s thrillers, for the somber tone conveys how these people always remain deeply hurt behind a smile; Fonny’s face, behind glass, dissolves into a building of architecture resembling prison bars. In the conversations Tish and Fonny share on either side of this glass barrier, their faces almost resemble mugshots of close friends. These are just some of the bad memories provoked that seem to lift the good memories higher. By then, a mere record player takes on greater meaning, right?
Every actor should be praised above all else for their ability to put a lump in your throat with their roller coaster emotional changes through laughing, then crying. That particularly goes to the mom, played flawlessly by Regina King (American Crime, Seven Seconds), whose transparent fear from new tasks mirrors back doubt when trying on a wig before she leaves America. It’s equally wonderful to see the bright, smiley cast work together in Tish’s perfume shop job, as troublesome as she describes it being.
2018 gave me great sources of positivity, even when my cinema watching strangely decreased by December due to other commitments. Optimism always continued during not-fun things; for me, it was putting marmalade in my post-workout drink to sustain high spirits despite other roommate problems. Yes, stuff always went on throughout the year even when it didn’t feel that way; I drove my first rental car from Phoenix to Tucson then back again, appeared on TV three different times, cooked a lot, went to my first live magic show, got two different job promotions, all evidence for myself how film shouldn’t serve a sole source of joy in life.
That’s 2018: a year that came out good mostly for me, even when the negatives were still critical to understand. With that, this magical end of the year always triumphs in bringing out our most reflective selves, much like the impact If Beale Street Could Talk will do to you.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
If Beale Street Could Talk. Annapurna Pictures. Web. <http://www.bealestreet.movie/>.
Smith, Mychal Denzel. “Finding a Way.” Digital image. The New Republic. Annapurna Pictures, 27 Nov 2018. Web. <https://newrepublic.com/article/152296/finding-way-barry-jenkins>.